Re: Cohousing definitions continued
From: Kevin Wolf (
Date: Wed, 17 Sep 1997 01:18:20 -0500
Rob Sandelin wrote" >
>What is Unique about cohousing? What sets it apart from other forms of
>and condos?  I see that uniqueness as the combination of five elements: 1. 
>it's resident conceived and driven, 2. Its goal is to create a closer 
>community of neighbors by design, 3. It has democratic form of governance,
>homes are owned by individuals, 5. it's run and maintained by the residents. 
Interesting discussion.  I've appreciated all the back and forth on this.
I believe that being able to name something, to provide it with a unique
and clear definition helps increase its power.  When we were at 4 houses in
1988 and Linda Cloud read the cohousing book, we had a name for what we
wanted to become. It was a powerful step forward.  I think the energy spent
in clarifying the definition of cohousing is important.  Here are my
thoughts in reference to what Rob has written.     

I agree with the basic concept of 1 and 2 though at N Street only a few of
the existing residents conceived of the community.  Regarding 2, I would
like to add something goes beyond "closer community of neighbors" to
encompass the sense of belonging to an extended family where one's sense of
belonging is so strong that it gives everyone more strength and energy to
achieve their personal missions. 

3.  So far most (all?) cohousing communities I know of strive for
consensus.  I would like to add this in as it may be a fundamental
difference between some religious based "co-housing" communities that might
encourage consensus decision making because, they are more orthodox and
hierarchical in structure.  

4.  I don't care how the houses are owned because we have some great
examples in towns where co-ops are owned by non-profits. We could conceive
of a home in the community being owned by one of these non-profits.  The
problem comes with voting if it meant that the non--profit could block our
consensus as opposed to the people living in the house.  We have 3 absentee
landlord owned houses and I would not want these types of relationships to
be excluded from cohousing either.

5.  "Run and maintained by community" seems pretty fundamental. 

Where does sharing meals and work together fit in?  As strategies for
Number 2.  Would it be cohousing if the community had a once a month
potluck and never worked together as a community?   Does a common
house/common eating area fit into this?  I know that in the early days of N
ST and Sharingwood we didn't have our common house together.  We at outside
in the summer and in a garage in the winter.  Yet we did eat together.  Hmm.  

I agree that cohousing should have a clear definition that defines it
differently than communes, co-ops and home owner associations.  Robs 5
points could almost have been an advanced condo/home owner association
community yet the ones I know of don't fit into cohousing because they
don't work to really make the interdependence part of cohousing be a

Hope this helps.


Here's my shot at it.

1.  Residents in cohousing want to create a community where they grow in
Kevin Wolf & Associates    - Consensus Facilitation
724 N Street               - Water On-Line Project
Davis, CA 95616            - Strategic and Watershed
kjwolf [at]       Planning
Phone 916-758-4211         - Director, Bizline, Inc.
Fax   916-758-2338 

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